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Maker(s):Workshop of Adam Dircksz.
Title:Prayer Nut with the Mass of Saint Gregory (top) and the Virgin of the Rosary (bottom)
Date Made:c. 1500-1530
Materials:Boxwood with later silver mounts
Place Made:Netherlands
Measurements:open: 1 5/8 x 3 3/8 x 7/8 in.; 4.1275 x 8.5725 x 2.2225 cm; closed diameter: 1 5/8 in.; 4.1275 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unsigned, undated
Accession Number:  SC 1991.23
Credit Line:Purchased with funds realized from the sale of a work given by Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Rittmaster (Sylvian Goodkind, class of 1937) in 1958
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Currently on view

religion - Christian; ceremony

Label Text:
This rare and intricately carved bead was probably once part of a rosary, a chain of beads, each serving as a reminder to say a particular prayer in the Catholic rosary meditation. A marvel of technical accomplishment, this paternoster bead was associated with the "Our Father" prayer. Most of the surviving examples of such luxurious and costly rosaries (King Henry VIII of England owned one) appear to have been produced during the first three decades of the 16th century in a workshop in the southern Netherlands, which also made miniature carved boxwood altars and tabernacles. The two interior scenes express key Catholic doctrines. In the upper scene, Christ on the cross appears above the altar while St. Gregory (504-640?), one of the four Latin fathers of the Catholic Church, is saying mass. The miracle signifies the doctrine of transubstantiation (the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion). In the lower scene, angels crown Mary the Virgin of the Rosary.

Other label: This rare, delicately carved bead was part of a rosary, a string of beads used by Catholics while reciting a sequence of prayers. The fine grain of boxwood makes it suitable for detailed carving by artisans who probably had to use magnifying glasses as aids.

The bead opens like a tiny portable altar, revealing carvings that express key doctrines of the Catholic Church. The top half shows Christ appearing above the altar while St. Gregory (c. 540–604) celebrates mass. This miracle supported the doctrine of transubstantiation (the real rather than symbolic presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion). In the lower half, angels crown Mary the Virgin of the Rosary.

Associated Resources:
Rosary Bead; Mass of Saint Gregory - 3d image

religion; Christianity; ceremonies; men; women; children; boys

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